Illustration of gravitational waves

Detecting the ripples in space-time

9 June 2024

Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have developed a new technique to detect high-frequency gravitational waves, potentially unveiling new insights into the universe's structure. The method leverages planetary magnetospheres, particularly focusing on how these celestial bodies can act as natural detectors for such elusive phenomena.

Gravitational waves, “ripples” in space-time caused by massive cosmic events, have primarily been observed at lower frequencies, and detecting high-frequency gravitational waves has remained a significant challenge. The HKUST team, led by Dr Tao Liu and working with Dr Jing Ren from the Institute of High Energy Physics at the Chinese Academy of Science, utilised the magnetic fields of planets to identify these high-frequency waves, which could lead to a deeper understanding of various astrophysical processes and the fundamental nature of gravity.

Their findings, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, suggest that planetary magnetospheres can amplify the signals of high-frequency gravitational waves, making them detectable with advanced instrumentation. This new method opens fresh avenues for cosmological research, potentially aiding in the study of black holes, neutron stars, and other exotic cosmic phenomena.